NRL Elimination Final - Rabbitohs v Knights
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 04: Kalyn Ponga of the Knight looks on during the NRL Elimination Final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium on October 04, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Kalyn Ponga has spoken of his desire to bring a premiership to the Newcastle Knights before he leaves the club, but the rumours surrounding his future just refuse to go away.

After an eighth-placed finish in 2021, the Knights crashed out of the finals at the first hurdle in a thriller against the Parramatta Eels.

Speculation has followed Ppontga and fellow spine player Mitchell Pearce around for much of the season. While it's anticipated Pearce will leave at the end of his current deal, which expires at the end of 2022, Ponga has a player option in his favour for 2023 and beyond.

That means he is free to negotiate as he sees fit, either with the Knights, or another club, along with every other off-contract player in the NRL from November 1.

The NRL are also set to announce a winning expansion bid in the coming weeks, which will inflate the player market ahead of the opening of negotiations with another 30 spots available.

Ponga has been one of a host of names linked with the 17th franchise, likely to be the Redcliffe Dolphins, and also likely to be coached by Wayne Bennett. Alongside Ponga includes Reed Mahoney, Clint Gutherson and Cameron Munster as the key names which are swirling in the rumour mill.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 30: Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett talks to media during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval on May 30, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

But Newcastle Knights CEO Phil Gardner told The Newcastle Herald during the week that he doesn't fear losing Ponga, instead saying the inflation of player prices is likely to occur for the mid-range players, rather than those already on enormous pay packets.

"Absolutely the player market will inflate because you are putting another $10 million out there into the marketplace for players," he said.

"But what I believe it will do is rather than inflate the price of the marquee players at the top which is what's being reported, the inflation will be around those players in the middle.

"The players currently getting paid $200,000 will be a big chance of potentially getting $350,000 or $400,000. Or a player on $350,000 will be a chance of getting $500k - they will be the real winners I believe. That's where I believe the competition will be."

Gardner said that alone will stop Ponga from chasing more money elsewhere, and that he will stay with the Knights until at least the end of 2024.

"As far as I am concerned, he is here until the end of 2024 and he'll be with us until at least then," Gardner said.

"People are going to keep asking me about KP and I'll keep saying the same thing. I'm not losing an ounce of sleep over it. I'm not concerned at all.

"At this stage of his career, he wants to win a premiership. He's told us that. That's his motivation and he says he wants to do that in Newcastle. He's been consistent about that."



  1. “But what I believe it will do is rather than inflate the price of the marquee players at the top which is what’s being reported, the inflation will be around those players in the middle”

    That statement makes no sense to me. If the middle players are going to get more, (and the guys on $100K aren’t going to take any less), then the marquee players are going to have to take a haircut.

    That is because every team has the same salary cap and has the same number of players in its squad. It’s a worry that the CEO of an NRL club is seemingly unable to understand this.

    Here is a hint for Mr Gardner. When Wayne goes to the 17th club, that club will pay unders – and be able to staff its roster paying unders – purely on the strength of the desire of players to be coached by the best coach in the league.

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